[Note: I'm skipping a rule because I feel Rule 4 in Hoyt's list is essentially the same as Rule 3.]
You shall not commit grey goo. Grey goo, in which characters of indeterminate moral status move in a landscape of indeterminate importance towards goals that will leave no one better or worse off is not entertaining. (Unless it is to see how the book bounces off the far wall, and that has limited entertainment. Also, I’m not flinging my kindle.)
This one barely needs comment from me, except perhaps in the form of perspective, in which I may digress a bit. Bring coffee.Read more
Your writing should not leave anyone feeling ashamed of being: male, female, western, non-western, sickly, hale, powerful, powerless. It should use characters as characters and not as broad groups that are then used to shame other groups. Fiction is not agit prop.
I'll use the last line as the directive: "Do not write agitprop."
(Note: I am explicitly not talking here about someone who is speaking their mind directly in the form of a nonfiction piece — a blog post, an essay, an open letter, a conversation with a friend. There, you are not only permitted but encouraged to be as vociferous and opinionated as you can, because that way you leave no ambiguity about your position. I am confining myself here to discussing the art of fiction.)
But immediately we fall into a trap. One man's agitprop is often another man's speaking-out against being silenced by complacency or marginalization. So to just say "don't write that stuff" is to some ears tantamount to saying "Don't speak up for yourself or your brethren."Read more
Your writing shouldn’t leave anyone feeling like they should scrub with pumice or commit suicide by swallowing stoats for the crime of being human, or like humans are a blight upon the Earth, or that the future is dark, dreary, evil and fraught with nastiness, because that’s all humans can do, and woe is us.
I'll boil that down to "Do not inspire loathing."Read more
After re-reading the "Human Wave" document, I've decided to devote a series of posts under the Vajra banner (since that's what it's most relevant to) to examining each of the suggested precepts within. Here's the first.
1. Your writing should be entertaining.
This seems like a given, doesn't it? But the problem I always run into with the dictum "Be entertaining!" is that there are at least as many definitions of "entertainment" as there are incarnations of it. There are people who find William Gaddis's JR entertaining, because the book tickles — entertains — a part of them that other books do not reach. Then there are people who see this 700-page doorstopper and just turn around and walk out of the room, because it offers them nothing they can find pleasure in.Read more
So far I've been sneaky and avoided saying much about The Hunger Games, especially the way it's been compared (unfairly, if you ask me) to Battle Royale. Without having read Games yet — it's on the agenda, though — I'll just say they seem like parallel implementations of some of the same concepts.
I bring that back up here, though, as a way to talk about a larger subject that the two invoke together: Are the best dystopias just a reflection of the excesses of the time that they were written in, or do they look at something deeper?Read more
For a while I've been struggling with a sort-of manifesto that I was going to use as a banner for Genji Press (and especially Fight of the Vajra). Then Sarah Hoyt came along and beat me to it, at least as far as the fiction-manifesto part of the game goes:
Give the whole piece a read. I'm kind of burdened with work right now, or I'd post a more in-depth analysis, but right now that analysis consists of two things:
I spent most of last Thursday without access to the 'net. I know, I know — shock, horror, gasp, you name it. Okay, I wasn't completely without access — I had a phone with a 3G data connection, which I used at one point to do some Google Maps lookups.
Let me rephrase, then: I was shirking 'net access. I had access; I just chose not to do anything with it, because I had more important things I wanted to fill my time with for that one day. As much as I enjoy technology — hey, I wouldn't have the job(s) I do if I didn't, and I sure as heck wouldn't be posting here with the vigor I do — there are days and nights when a stroll around town, or a few hours with someone over dinner with no digital intermediaries between us, is a lot more appealing than yet another blog post.
Don't worry. I'm not about to write some fulminatory screed about how technology is destroying simple honest human interaction; you've got Jonathan Franzen to do that job for you (many times over). Instead, consider this: What convinces us that we need to have at least some of our lives lived outside of the envelope of perpetual connectivity?Read more
Goodbye. Thank you.
Like so many other kids my age, I blundered into your work in the pages of Heavy Metal, then went on to discover you in anthologies and collected volumes, many of which are now out of print and change hands at collector's prices. (Let's do something about that, okay?)
I liked how you saw things. I don't mean to say I liked the way you made these lines thicker or these lines thinner, or that you used this kind of color wash. I mean I liked how you saw things. You did what any truly great artist did, from H.R. Giger to Andy Warhol: you taught me a whole new way to look at the world and see new things in it.
I hope I won't sound grubby for saying this, but if I had my pick of artist to create art for Vajra, no limts at all, you would have been the one. It's only now that I realize how much of what I wanted to let people see through the story in that book was inspired by all you did.
Another piece about John Carter (a full review), which brings up a point about both it and other works I've seen in its vein:
One reason we're drawn to retro futurism, or visions of tomorrow from the past, is that there's a kind of crazy, adorable wrongness to them. We chuckle at nineteenth century visions of flying contraptions and glass cities.
Well, not all of us do. But I would wager the vast majority of people who walk into SF with nothing more than the most obvious touchstones of it rattling around in their heads — the folks who've seen all the easy* blockbuster SF like Star Wars, The Matrix, and so on — will do the giggling. They're less familiar with the idea of SF having a "retro" component that should be savored separately, and so attempts to invoke it don't work as well with them.Read more
One of the things that has frustrated me about science fiction is that technology pertaining to the smaller aspects of our lives is often neglected in favor of big giant rockets and exotic weaponry. Birth control seems non-existent and childbirth is still rocking the stirrups. And the home is at best not mentioned much.
This is something I've tried to avoid — although again, I can't claim I'm successful just yet — with Vajra. When I create a spaceship, I don't just think about the faster-than-light drive; I try to give at least as much thought to the bunks and the bathroom, because that's what people who ride in it are still going to care most about. If it takes ten days to cross the galaxy, that's still ten days of bad food and crowded quarters. And then there's everything that happens planetside ...
I think part of why SF ignores domesticity, or at least doesn't think of it as much, is because a lot of it is about people who are at the top end of the Being Somebody spectrum. Domesticity just isn't that important to the story, because the characters have been liberated from having to care about it by dint of being Important.Read more
If science fiction and fantasy have always had a shortcoming, it's in how they have always felt more dreamed up than observed. I know, more anti-fabulist heresy: surely the point of a literature of the imagination is to imagine things that don't exist?
I wrote the above sentence about a week ago and immediately threw it into the back of my blog folder. (One of the disadvantages of using a computer is how little visceral satisfaction there is in much of what you do. For neither the first nor the last time I missed having a desk drawer that I could slam.)
The last thing I want is to be accused of being "anti-imagination" or something along those lines. But at the same time, I sense there is this constant confusion about what imagination is or what it's for.Read more